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[toni.naish@btinternet.com: Burian's Phorusrhacos]

Unbelievable.  There is just no stopping him.  Am I imagining it, or
has Darren's contribution to the DML actually _increased_ since he

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Envelope-to: mike@miketaylor.org.uk
Delivery-date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 01:17:43 +0200
From: "Toni" <toni.naish@btinternet.com>
To: "Mike Taylor" <mike@miketaylor.org.uk>
Subject: Burian's Phorusrhacos
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 00:26:39 +0100
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Hey Mike - here's another one for DML (thanks). Will respond to your email on 
Tigger Mamum-Ra, temnospondyl phylogeny and 'The path of least resistance' 
within the next hour or so. 

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A couple of things in response to Dan's words on restorations of 
_Phorusrhacos_. Thanks again for your comments Dan - and I agree with you, it 
was Knight that inspired so many, including Burian, but (as was my original 
point) it was Burian's painting that became so influential post-1960s, most 
notably in the colour scheme that has so often been used for this bird. And I 
did always wonder about that freakish pseudo-lamb creature in the creature's 


Burian's colour painting, in my opinion, is just awesome, and one of my 
favourite renditions of any prehistoric animal. And I think (though can't back 
this up) that Burian was depicting some speculative palaeobehaviour in that 
painting: the bird on the left appears smaller, and appears to be both 
presenting the litoptern corpse to the larger bird, and engaging in an 
open-winged display. Based on raptor behaviour, I think that we're seeing 
courtship feeding, with the male engaging in a nuptial display. As is the case 
in raptors, Burian seems to have speculated that male phorusrhacoids were 
smaller than females: as it happens, some phorusrhacoids (including _Titanis 
walleri_, _Brontornis burmeisteri_ and various psilopterines) do exhibit a 
significant amount of intra-specific size variation, so apparently did exhibit 
sexual dimorphism in size. Given that phorusrhacoids were hypercarnivorous, it 
might be tempting to imagine that they exhibited 'reverse' sexual dimorphism as 
s and
 raptors do, BUT in extant gruiforms (including seriemas - the closest 
relatives and analogues of phorusrhacoids) it's the males that are bigger. 
Furthermore some studies indicate that 'reverse' dimorphism mostly occurs in 
birds that pursue other birds in flight (Chris Brochu alluded to this in the 
FMNH PR2081 monograph), though there are exceptions.


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In fact this was firmly cemented by Ray Harryhausen using  essentially 
Burian's design as an animation model in "Mysterious Island"(a  beautiful 
being having the model rigged so the crest would elevate,  showing  

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It's an apparently sad fact that only us nerdy palaeofreaks really appreciate 
the identity of the bird in 'Mysterious Island': Karl Shuker (1991) reported 
that 'the novelty value of using a _Phorusrhacus_ [sic] adversary . was lost on 
the film audiences of the time - they simply thought that it was a giant 
chicken!' (p. 121). Note also that _Phorusrhacos_ made a brief appearance in 
Conan-Doyle's _The Lost World_ - it pursues Challenger and is shot dead by 


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Funny Darren should mention Maurice Wilson as I was thinking of him also. 
His work was absolutely original. It seemed as if he never looked at anyone 
else's art. Hopefully, someday his art will be rediscovered and fully 
appreciated. DV

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I began collecting biographical material some time ago, though this is 
something most decidedly on the back-burner. 


Ref  - -


Shuker, K. P. N. 1991. _Extraordinary Animals Worldwide_. Robert Hale (London), 
pp. 208.


- -- 
Darren Naish
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Burnaby Building, Burnaby Rd
University of Portsmouth
Portsmouth, UK, PO1 3QL

email: darren.naish@port.ac.uk
[send large attachments to: eotyrannus@gmail.com]
tel: 023 92846045

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